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Several approaches are evaluated for reducing the large data handling and processing loads associated with synthetic aperture radar (SAR) imaging systems. The effects of data abbreviation on SAR images were studied theoretically as well as experimentally with SEASAT-A data. Image degradation was measured in terms of azimuth resolution and signal-to-clutter ratio. It was found that the degradation of image quality to data rate reduction is graceful. With high time-bandwidth product signals, little or no azimuth resolution degradation was noticed with several data bandwidth reduction techniques that achieve data reduction factors of up to 8. The signal-to-clutter ratio was found to decrease slowly with increasing reduction in data rate.